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The Blessing of Not Getting What We Ask For

"As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, 'I will follow you wherever you go.' Jesus replied, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'" (Luke 9:57-58, NIV)

It was August 1987. We had been in country exactly two years living in a very nice rented town house. We were fitting into the neighborhood, learning the language, making friends. The place where we lived had been provided within a week of our arrival on the field. It was the perfect size for our five-person family, within walking distance of the school and almost across the street from the swimming pool (which I was learning to enjoy!)

But then the landlady’s sister became our landlady and she had a very different approach than had her sibling. She raised our rent, increasing it beyond what we felt we could afford, certain that we would just swallow it. We decided instead to find a new home, but that was easier said than done with three young children.

However, I was certain we would find something by September 1st. After all, hadn’t the Lord promised He would supply "all our needs?" All our praying friends, Icelanders and Americans, assured us that God would provide "just the right place."

Yet when August 31st arrived "the right place" hadn’t come. So, with my mother-in-law who was visiting us at the time, we moved all of our belongings into a garage and went to live in our co-worker’s one-bedroom apartment (fortunately for all of us, he was on vacation). For the next 20 days—the hardest 20 days of my life to that point—we were without a place to live.

During those days I became depressed and then angry. How could God do this to us? Weren’t we God’s servants? I demanded that God give me a "housing promise" to cling to during those days. And do you know what God gave me? Luke 9:58! Not exactly what I was asking for.

It started to dawn on me that when we say we’ll follow Jesus, we’re volunteering to share in His sufferings. Foxes and birds are examples of vagabonds, wayfarers that have at least their own place of rest. Jesus doesn’t even guarantee that. He was even driven out of Nazareth, His hometown (see Luke 4:28-30). It was as if the Lord were saying to me, "Greg, you said you wanted to follow Me. This is what it means. Are you still in?"

It is easy to look back now, and even to thank God that He didn’t give me what I wanted. There was something else He was offering me, something I would never have thought to ask for—the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. Rather than the Waldorf Astoria, I could expect the privilege of Jesus’ company while I am a stranger and pilgrim in this world. I could expect to learn contentment with what I have, for He Himself has said, "I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). I could expect to learn that nothing could separate me from God’s love, nor hinder His work in and through me as long as I surrendered myself to Him. Some thirty-one years later, it’s still a good reminder.

Warmly in Christ, Greg Aikins

For Reflection:

"He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." (Deut. 8:3, NIV)

  1. What are some ways in which your "practical theology" has been adjusted by your experience?

  2. What are some things you asked for that you did not receive, which you now can thank God for?

  3. What are some of the "impossible things" for which you are still trusting God to do in your life, but which may take a little while?

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